By Dan Baldwin, director of sales, ATEL Communications Inc.
The failure of consumer VoIP provider SunRocket will not cool the love affair between SMBs and VoIP. The attraction to VoIP is especially strong for new and expanding SMBs looking to buy a phone system.
Since re-engaging as an agent two months ago (after a five-year absence from the trenches), I was surprised to discover the acceptance of VoIP dial tone by businesses across the spectrum. An old call center customer of mine had installed a VoIP IP-PBX Asterisk server with a dozen SIP trunks feeding it dial tone over his dedicated Internet access T-1 (DIA) that I sold him. The SIP service he was using was from a business associate who had purchased and installed his own VoIP soft switch.
As a dial tone salesperson with a major San Diego interconnect, I field inquiries every day from new businesses and expanding businesses that need to order new or additional dial tone. Ninety-five percent of all businesses ask about VoIP. If they already have a non-VoIP phone system they want to know if they should switch their company to VoIP or install SIP trunk service into their existing phone system. It’s like they all want to be able to tell their business associates how cool they are because they use VoIP for their dial tone. Many small businesses I talk to call not to learn about VoIP, but to add more bandwidth and more SIP trunks to the VoIP system they’ve already setup for themselves and are using successfully.
During my break from selling dial tone, I thought business owners hated the idea of VoIP dial tone because of all the bad press consumer VoIP has had and continues to have. I was wrong. Business owners seem to know that the VoIP providers having trouble are all in the consumer space. It’s like they’re thinking, “Of course they’re having trouble they’re trying to make a living selling service to cheap skates!” The fact that many sad Vonage investors are loosing their money does not seem to dampen small business owners desire to claim the benefits of VoIP dial tone for their own business.
I think the main reason for the acceptance of VoIP in the business dial tone realm is the IP-PBX. It’s all about control. Nothing, it seams, frustrates a business owner or manager more than having to call his interconnect to make a small “move, add or change” (MAC) to their phone system and then having to pay $150 for it. Just as many business owners forgo the luxury of a secretary because they can now use their own computer to send a letter or email, business owners see VoIP (SIP trunks in an IP-PBX) as their opportunity to do their own MAC orders and forgo sending $150 to an outside company for every MAC in the future.
And it’s not just the early adapters. I’m selling VoIP dial tone in the form of SIP trunks to real estate agents in North Carolina and credit unions in Indiana. They see the decision to try VoIP or SIP as basically risk-free because if it doesn’t work they still have the option of putting regular dial tone (analogue lines, PRIs or regular voice T-1s) into their newly acquired IP-PBXs. Most figure, “Hey, I’m ordering broadband Internet anyway, why don’t I try VoIP in my new IP-PBX phone system by ordering SIP trunks?”
But it’s not just new and expanding businesses who just bought an IP-PBX who love VoIP. Almost all of our larger customers with existing non-VoIP phone systems using regular analogue or digital dial tone want to hear about how they can start integrating VoIP as they order new dial tone. I spend as much time talking people out of VoIP as I do selling VoIP. (It doesn’t make sense for many single-location businesses to add VoIP trunks to their non-VoIP phone systems “just to be cool.”)
While I certainly feel bad for everyone who lost money on SunRocket or Vonage I don’t really think the bad news affecting consumer VoIP will cross over to business VoIP. For small businesses buying a new phone system, IP-PBXs trunked with SIP dial tone is almost a no-brainer. No amount of bad consumer VoIP news will affect the love affair small business is developing for VoIP.
Note: ATEL explains how VoIP and SIP trunks work in a phone system so often that we actually made a video to send to our customers and prospects. Click here to view the video yourself or visit www.ATELcc.com.
Dan Baldwin, founder of TelecomAssociation, is director of sales at ATEL Communications Inc. Founded in 1985, ATEL is the largest NEC telephone equipment dealer in Southern California. Baldwin works with ATEL’s carrier services division that acts as an in-house telecom master agency to sell network services to ATEL’s embedded base of 2,000 phone equipment customers. For more information about ATEL’s carrier services division please visit
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